Nor'easter News - Week 8
Recap of the Week
With the New England Regional Rankings set to come out on Wednesday, things are starting to really get interesting. NESCAC leader Amherst kept the good times rolling with another come-from-behind overtime win at Colby, 2-1, while 2nd-placed Tufts maintained its grip on that spot with a 2-0 home win over a plucky Conn. side. NEWMAC side WPI became the first team to defeat St. Joseph’s (Maine) this year, with a 1-0 win in Maine on Monday. Elsewhere in the Pine Tree State, Bates encountered a tough stretch: the Bobcats lost 2-1 at home to Maine Maritime — who is having a great season (10-3-1 overall) and chasing Thomas for top spot in the NAC — and then fell to Williams on the road in double-overtime. Bates will look to steady the ship as it welcomes Amherst this weekend — a tall task, for sure, but one the Bobcats seem capable of given their strong performances to date. And Brandeis is sitting third in the always-competitive UAA, closing out the weekend with a 3-0 win over Washington U. after falling to conference leaders Chicago on Friday night, 1-0.
Amherst ground out yet another overtime victory, this time on the road at Colby. The Mammoths, who were upset by the Mules in last year’s NESCAC semifinal, 3-1, were forced to dig deep yet again, and yet again, they came up with the goods. After going behind to an early Ethan Fabricant goal, Dane Lind tied things up less than 10 minutes later, and despite a barrage of Amherst pressure (a 14-3 shot margin and 6-2 SOG advantage) the game stayed 1-1 throughout the remainder of regulation. In overtime, it was again the German Giammattei story, as he finished to give the Mammoths another vital victory, and one that moves them closer to home-field advantage for the NESCAC tournament. Of course, Amherst has had a few stumbles at home in the conference tournament in the last couple of years — in 2017 the Mammoths blew a 2-0 lead en route to a 4-3 loss to Hamilton in the quarterfinals, while 2018 saw eventual NESCAC Champion Colby hit them for three goals before a consolation goal from Bryce Johnson yielded a 3-1 semifinal loss — so home field advantage alone doesn't win any trophies. That said, this team looks to be building up a head of steam — and it's going to take a big effort to stop them
In the NEWMAC, Clark maintained its advantage at the top with a 4-3 win in double overtime on the road at MIT. The Cougars (4-1 in conference) who lead the regular season standings with two games to go, close their regular season with trips to second-placed Babson (detailed below) and third-placed WPI. Babson has put together some impressive results, including home wins over Tufts (2-0) and Conn. College (2-1), and WPI picked up its aforementioned win over St. Joseph’s (Maine), so both are hot on Clark’s tail. That said, the Cougars have held up well to date, responding impressively after a three-game mid-season skid, so they’ll have the confidence to push on. This program has moved up the ladder in the last five years, and it appears this year they have what it takes to go all the way. Time will tell.
Tufts rebounded from a tough stretch with a 2-0 win at home against Conn. College. After starting the year like a house on fire — the Jumbos went clean through September for the second-straight year — things got a little less straightforward for Tufts once October hit. First, the Jumbos were held to a 1-1 draw on the road to Wesleyan on Oct. 2. A routine 2-0 home win against Trinity (Conn.) stemmed the tide before the Jumbos lost to Babson — a team that last year's side defeated comprehensively 3-1, at home — and fell, 2-0, on Oct. 8. With a big trip to Amherst on the docket for that weekend (10/12), it appeared that the Jumbos got caught in a "trap" game, but their misery was compounded by losing 2-1 in overtime in the Pioneer Valley and drawing 1-1 at Hamilton the day after. The Jumbos have experienced wobbles in years previous and come out better — 2015 and 2016 spring to mind, in particular — so they will hope that their resurgence this year is a similarly good omen.
Upcoming Game of the Week: Babson vs. Clark
There have been a number of games billed as important in terms of conference standings, and this one is no different. Clark and Babson are the two top teams in the NEWMAC, and this game could have major implications for the NEWMAC tournament.
The Beavers, who were voted pre-season NEWMAC favorites, won their first two games against Western New England and Southern Maine, before falling on the road at Brandeis and Amherst in contests where they gave good accounts of themselves. A 2-0 win at Regis (Mass.) provided some reprieve, before a 3-0 home reversal against Williams left the Beavers 3-3-0. Since a 3-2 overtime loss to Endicott, Babson has turned a corner, picking up big wins against defending national champion Tufts and NESCAC contender Conn. College. The Beavers overall record of 9-4-2 may not be overly impressive, but they have two very strong non-conference wins that show they can hang with the big regional powers — something that hasn’t necessarily been the case with Babson teams in recent years. For its part, Clark has quietly emerged to be a NEWMAC contender in recent years, making the conference semifinals in both 2016 and 2017. This season, the Cougars have gone about their business well, and sit at 11-4-0, with three of the four losses — setbacks to non-conference foe Keene State, NEWMAC rival Wheaton (Mass.), and NESCAC side Wesleyan — coming in succession. That could have pegged Clark back, but it has responded well and rallied from a 3-1 deficit inside the last six minutes to win 4-3 in double overtime at MIT. A balanced offense features seven players with 3+ goals, and while Clark’s 1.35 GAA might be concerning, goalkeeper Melvin Vincent’s save pct. of .805 is certainly solid. The Cougars will have to be at their best defensively to stop a Babson team that has scored 2.06 goals/game, led by Mitchell Collins and his eight goals.
Of course, a draw helps Clark more than Babson, as the Cougars would still maintain their advantage at the top of the table. A Babson win, though, and the Beavers are firmly in the driving seat, and would be in pole position for home-field advantage throughout the NEWMAC playoffs. Interestingly, this decade, Babson has fared better on the road in the NEWMAC tournament than at home: the Beavers have won three NEWMAC titles during that stretch (2010, 2014, and 2015), but just one of those (the first) has been at home. Moreover, they've hosted the NEWMAC tournament four times (2011, 2012, 2016, and 2018) and fallen short each time, including a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Springfield in a game that Babson dominated but couldn’t finish off. This year’s team seems a bit more poised, though, and appears ready to compete — wherever it has to play. For Clark’s part, all but one of the Cougars’ losses have come away from home, so they’ll need to be at their best to get a result. That said, there’s plenty to play for in this one — and given their strong seasons to date, both teams will feel they have what it takes to win.
Comments or feedback for the author? E-mail Henry Loughlin